At a time when foreign employment issues are becoming thorny, SOM LAL SUBEDI, Secretary at the Ministry of Labor and Employment, has taken several steps to reform it. Energetic and young, Secretary Subedi has taken some important steps in the last ten months of his tenure in the Ministry. Excerpts:
How do you view the foreign employment sector?
This is one of the high priority sectors of the government. The prime minister himself has shown the interest to make it respectful and organized so that no Nepali will suffer humiliation in foreign employment.
What are the major steps you have taken in the area of foreign employment?
Basically, there was no policy in the past. Now there is a policy document on foreign employment. It is a matter of pride for me that the government has already endorsed the Foreign Employment Policy 2068 and we have already prepared its Implementation Framework. Similarly, the Ministry continues the process of reforms initiated earlier to contain the malpractices and corruption in Department of Foreign Employment. One of the important parts is that the government has already approved Foreign Employment Authority Regulation 2068 and it is not under implementation. The double stickers system was introduced to identify those who want to go for foreign employment on individual basis and under organized scheme. After agreement on calling visa system in Malaysia, Nepali workers feel more secure.
What other steps have you taken?
After a long gap, the meeting of Foreign Employment Promotion Board commenced and several decisions were taken regarding the welfare of workers. The meeting of the board could not be held for years. Information help desk was established in Tribhuwan International Airport. EPS training charge was reduced from 70 to 63 dollars. The decision has already been taken to provide mandatory training to the domestic workers going abroad. A committee has been constituted under the convenership of the Ministry with members from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and director general of Department of Foreign Employment to develop a system to send workers in Israel. During my meeting with Labor secretary of Thaliand in Manila in April, Thailand has shown interest to hire Nepalese workers in the manufacturing sector. I have already requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with the issue at the diplomatic level. As the state of foreign employment has changed, the decision has already been taken to restructuring the Department of Foreign Employment.
What steps have been taken to end frauds in foreign employment?
To effectively contain the fraudulent activities and cheating in foreign employment, the Ministry has already initiated several activities and taken necessary steps. With the initiative of Department of Foreign Employment, concerned manpower companies have already paid 247 million rupees to those who sought compensation from them. The ministry has already established a system to provide free legal service to workers who are victims of fraudulence. Under the new policy, Nepalese embassies were given the right to authenticate the demand paper. This will increase the security of Nepalese workers. A working group is constituted with higher level officials from Ministry of Labor and Employment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group has already developed a report to improve coordination and joint working.
What other steps have you taken?
The minimum wages were set to workers who are going to work in Saudi Arabia and domestic worker in Kuwait. Riyal 1000 is set as a minimum salary for those who go in Saudi Arabia and 60 Kuwaiti dollars for domestic workers in Kuwait. We have already signed agreement with Poverty Alleviation Fund to localize foreign employment. To make foreign employment respectful, secure and organized, we need transparency, openness and easy working procedure. The Ministry has already formulated Standard Operating Procedure for all the government offices involved in foreign employment sector.
What about EPS?
The Memorandum of Understanding is renewed with South Korea with provisions to make EPS system more organized and friendly to safety aspects of the worker. According to this new MoU, Nepalese workers can now work in South Korea up to next five years. Previously, high-level Nepalese delegation used to visit South Korea to sign and exchange letters. However, it was signed here and exchanged it through diplomatic channel. The discussion has already been initiated to amend Foreign Employment Act 2064.
How do you see the skill training?
To improve the skills of Nepalese workers, the Ministry of Finance has already sent a proposal to Saudi Arabia requesting 20 million dollars in support. To sign a Labor agreement with Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, the draft of MoU has already been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
What about code of conduct?
The Ministry has already requested foreign employment entrepreneurs to develop their Code of Conduct. According to them, the Code of Conduct is in the process of preparation. In the areas of Social Security, the ministry has already directed to provide the money collected for Social Security. As a chairman of Social Security Fund, a draft of the act for Social Security Board has already been finalized. So far as in the areas of Child Labor, the discussion on draft of Child Labor Master Plan (2012-2020) has already begun and it will be approved soon. The National Labor Conference was held with endorsement of 15 point charter. The conference was not held since 2061.
What about the elections for Trade union?
The ministry has already directed the concerned industries and industrial establishments to hold the elections for authorized trade unions. Similarly, an Election Office has already been established to hold the elections for the authorized trade unions of civil servants. Before doing this, representatives of various trade unions participated in a workshop to discuss the role of trade union in administrative reforms.
What major achievements you have made in trade disputes?
The Ministry is able to settle major trade union disputes in Uniliver, Surya Tobacco and Khimti hydro-power project. After discussions, the ministry has sought written suggestions from the Society of Mechanical Engineers in the issue of labor reforms. Employment Information Center Management Directives 2068 has already been implemented. Similar, Vocational Skill Development and Training Guidance 2069 have already been prepared and it is in effect.
What about the amendment of Labor Act?
After consultations with various stakeholders, the preparation has already been made to amend the Labor Act 2049.